5 Tips for Nursing School Applicants
Nursing has long been one of the most popular career fields to enter thanks to its variety of well-paid job opportunities, rapid job growth society’s constant need for nursing and medical care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May of 2011, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $65,950, nationally (BLS.gov/oes, 2013); nearly double the median annual wage for all occupations in the U.S. economy. And the BLS also estimates that employment opportunities for registered nurses will grow up to 26 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013), which is also nearly double the rate for all occupations. This also means thatapplying to nursing school is going to be harder than ever.
Becoming a nurse requires a lot of work even then isn’t easy to accomplish. One of the primary reasons why is because of the demands of nursing school. But ironically, many people find that the nursing program isn’t the hard part, it’s actually the nursing school application. However, there are a number of nursing school application tips which may help the chances of prospective nursing school students getting accepted into these very competitive programs.
1. Ace the nursing pre-requisites! The nursing pre-reqs are intended to be difficult and are specifically reserved for anyone trying to get into the medical field. From pre-med students to nursing students and X-ray technicians, showcasing individual strengths is important to proving their individual skills in their field of choice.
The pre-requisite classes can consist of chemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as microbiology, nutrition, drug calculations and human development. These classes can be intense, testing both a student’s academic and personal ability to keep up with the course. Many students walk through the doors thinking they can float through the course but end up quickly realizing that they are in way over their heads.
These nursing pre-reqs are meant to be taken seriously and are the most heavily weighted aspect of the entire scoring system. This means if a person scores a “B” in any of them they are already far behind the competition and, in most cases, are ineligible for nursing school. Nursing schools also look at how many times the class had to be taken to get an “A”, meaning that passing the class with an “A” the first time around can make a big difference later on.
(Hint) Being a strong flash-carder is one of the skills that tend to get students through these classes with an “A”. Flash card everything!
2. Be prepared for the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) test. This may seem like one of the more obvious nursing school application tips, but the exam has gotten harder in the last five years and many students who take the test are stunned when they find out their scores are so low. What some don’t realize is that the score doesn’t matter as much as where the score ranks in terms of the national average. Scoring in the 60’s may not necessarily be as bad of a score as one might initially think.
The TEAS test is weighted very heavily as well, and is one of the most important factors following the science pre-requisites. The good news is that there is plenty of material available to help students study. Prepare for the test by using practice guides such as McGraw Hill’s 5 TEAS Practice Tests or Secrets of the TEAS V Exam by Mometrix Media.
One of the aspects of the exam that surprises students is how heavily it focuses on science. If someone didn’t get “A’s” in their pre-req courses, they will wish they had. Quite simply, candidates need to know their stuff to pass the science portion of the exam; this means anatomy, microbiology and chemistry can all be major factors in the testing portion of the exam.
3. Get Medical experience. Easier said than done, right? These programs have strict admissions standards which weed out the people who have not put in the extra effort to get accepted into the school. On the points system, having a medical background usually will increase the application point score of a candidate by about five out of 100 total points possible. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can make a difference when admission councils are deciding between one applicant and another – a lot of students who ace their pre-reqs and their TEAS still scrounge for points at the end of their application process. The medical experience points can help you meet the entrance criteria and are usually something faculty look for in excellent candidates, meaning medical experience can go a long way to help students applying to nursing school.
Some of the easiest experience to get is as an emergency medical technician, certified nursing assistant or phlebotomy experience. If a candidate is a licensed practical nurse or paramedic, great, but these programs are relatively intensive and can take a long time to actually get the license and experience required. Starting them only to get the medical experience points for the application may not be the best route.
EMT, CNA and phlebotomy certifications can be earned in usually a semester or less and can give someone both experience and quality references that can be added towards their application points pool.
4. Cleaning up the overall GPA. This means getting those “D’s” and “F’s” taken off all transcripts. The overall GPA of the student isn’t usually heavily weighted, but it is still a factor. Try to clean this up as best you can with an academic renewal request, which can usually be done in the business administration office at any college.
5. Apply everywhere. One of the best and easiest to follow tips for applying to nursing school is to not limit applications to top choices. It is not rare for people to have to wait three-to-four years to get into a nursing program. Many programs have switched to a competitive point system to apply but revert to a raffle system once requirements are met. If the total class size accepted is 60 individuals out of 2000 or more applicants, then the chances of getting in are low. It might be better to apply in other states that have less competitive programs or smaller populations.
Candidates should be very careful to research the state educational requirements for nurses. For instance, the California Board of Registered Nursing will not allow nurses to work within its borders if they have been educated in a state other than California; although many states do not have these restrictions. Do the due diligence and make sure you have all the information by contacting the state nursing board you plan to be employed under.
Nursing is a competitive field and people have to be on their game and willing to make sacrifices to be a part of it. Following these five steps can help a nursing school candidate get a great deal closer to their career goals.
This article was written by Jonathan Sanui of CNAthrive.com. Jonathan is a paramedic and nursing student in California.
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